Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My email to my MPP

The government of Ontario passed Bill 115 yesterday called "The Putting Students First Act".  This followed several months of spin by the government that depicted teachers as overpaid and did its best to tap into the idea that teachers don't work that hard and should be grateful for all the great perks and benefits they get.

Bill 115 takes away teachers' ability to negotiate pay or working conditions and removes benefits like sick leave and retirement gratuities that had been freely negotiated between school boards and teachers.  You may feel that those benefits are unreasonable since most other professions don't get them but please remember that those benefits come from negotiated agreements.  If teachers received those benefits, it means they gave up something else, maybe salary, maybe some other benefit.  So taking away those benefits is a unilateral removal of money from teachers.  I can't see how unilaterally taking money away from people who negotiated in good faith is ever going to be fair.

All this is to set the stage for the email I wrote to my MPP, Bob Chiarelli.  I am going to post it here because I think it does a decent job of saying what I feel about this situation.

Hello Mr. Chiarelli,
I am a High School teacher for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.  My home is in your riding and I voted for you last election.  I would like to tell you a bit of my story as it is representative of the difficulties faced by teachers.
I graduated from Engineering Physics at Queen's University (with first class honours) in 1993.  In 1994 - 95 I attended the Faculty of Education at Queen's.  When I graduated I did some supply teaching and other teaching-related work and I became a contract (permanent) teacher with the OCDSB in 1998.  The frustrations of teaching, partly compounded by the government of the time, led me to move into high technology as a Software Designer with Mitel in 2000.  However, I eventually realized that software design did not give me the feeling of helping that I got when I was teaching. 
In 2007 I returned to teaching and I am now in my sixth year of trying to get a permanent job.  This is the reality that faces all new and returning teachers at this time.  It takes years of hard work followed by some good luck to land a job that does not go away at the end of June every year.  The teachers who persevere through these difficulties are committed, caring professionals who put students first every day.  Teachers like me are not in this for the money, not in this for the bankable sick days, not in this for the summers off.  By the way, at Mitel I could have taken a two month unpaid leave in the summer and still made more than I would have as a teacher.
Teachers like me are in this because we love teaching, we love the students, and we love trying to help build a better society one student at a time.  I don't know why your government has chosen to attack us.  I don't know why your government has chosen to act like we are lazy, greedy, and selfish.  I don't know why your government has chosen to take away our ability to have any control over our working conditions.
I do know that your government has treated all my hard work and efforts, and those of my colleagues, as unimportant and of low value.  If I ever treated a student the way your government has treated me and my fellow teachers I would be ashamed.  I hope you will hear and understand some of the pain and difficulty your government has caused me.  I hope that you will lobby and act within your caucus and the Cabinet to mitigate what your government is doing to us.
Because if an election was held right now I would be voting for the NDP because you voted to take away my rights and they voted to uphold my rights.

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